I have had this strange feeling for months and while I couldn’t identify it, it felt very familiar. I just couldn’t place where I had experienced it before. Now I remember.
Many years ago, my youngest was too young to be Scuba certified and desperately wanted to dive. We took an introductory course from an excellent dive school in the Bahamas that would allow her the chance. I happily took the course with her. Not surprisingly, we both did very well on the instruction part and mastered the equipment section easily.
Then it was time for the dive. Simple. 20 minutes, 20 feet, perfect conditions. Now because Kat was by far the youngest in the group, the Dive Master took her under his wing. That turned out to be a very good thing. Because the moment we were in the water, I was completely overwhelmed.
There was absolutely nothing untoward going on and it was a complete shock. I am a very strong swimmer, and super comfortable in the water. My training was satisfactory, and my equipment was functioning perfectly. However, I was beyond terrified. I felt like the buoyancy compensator was crushing my chest and I couldn’t breathe.
I knew I would be fine. I wasn’t going to make a fuss and alert anyone. As long as a I concentrated very hard on breathing, with a shallow pant that I tried constantly to slow, and as long as I didn’t let the nausea that was swirling around me take hold, I could last out the entire time. This was an act of will.
Fighting panic for the next 20 minutes, I didn’t move more than 2 feet from the anchor line of the dive boat. When Kat or the another diver would approach, I would cheerfully make the “OK” sign and then pretend to be very interested in the the barnacles on the anchor, or the way the anchor line refracted the light. I am a good actor.
All I did was hang on to the line and watch Kat. She, of course, was killing it. Able to move in every direction gracefully and completely confident I watched her and prayed that she wouldn’t develop any issue that required my assistance. I was freaked out knowing that, for the first time, I had real doubts about my ability to properly take care of one of my kids.
That is how I am feeling now – today. Most days. There is nothing wrong. My family is safe. I am warm and well fed. When I turn on the tap, clean water comes out. When I call the fire department, they not only come fast, they come for free. I am unbelievably lucky – starting with being born here in Canada. I just can’t help anyone in the ways that I always have.
My husband said a while ago that he was surprised to discover that one could feel both gratitude and anxiety at the same time. Now we are the poster children for it. As we approach the one year anniversary of this pandemic and the resulting lock-downs, I send a blanket apology to all of those people that I love and care about. I see you. I wish you well. I hurts my heart that I cannot do more to be there for you. Please keep breathing.